Wyatts Green swimming champion dies on 50th wedding anniversary cruise

A gold-medal-winning master swimmer and theatre company founder died while celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary on board a cruise liner.

Paul Alvarez, 77, was travelling around the Canary Islands when he suffered a heart attack on the evening of his golden wedding anniversary after performing his favourite ballroom dance with his wife, Frances, 71.

The couple, who lived in Wyatts Green, featured on the front page of the Recorder last year after winning a haul of medals in at the Essex Master Swimming Chamionships, despite having had to take time out from the sport to have hip replacements.

Mrs Alvarez said: “He was a very good master swimmer and had won a number of gold medals, which he was very proud of. Paul was a very energetic person and people were amazed when I told them what happened, because he was so fit until the end.”

The couple had two sons, Mark, 47 and Grant, 45. Grant inherited his parents’ creative streak and regularly organised museum exhibitions. Paul was an acting deputy headteacher before taking early retirement to concentrate on swimming and acting.


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The couple, originally from Ilford, trained five times a week at the Brentwood Centre, Doddinghurst Road, in order to keep in shape for competitions.

They had also up their own theatre company, Vortex, which regularly put on productions at the Kenneth More Theatre in Ilford.

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Mrs Alvarez added: “The theatre company was our baby and we used to be heavily involved, from the scriptwriting and acting to costume.”

Former Kenneth More Theatre general manager Vivyan Ellacott said: “I knew Paul for many years through the theatre and he was a fine actor, but it was his sheer generosity of spirit which I found amazing. He was always willing to help others out.

“He was in love with the theatre and was always so enthusiastic, which inspired others to get involved.”

Paul was also a founder member of the group Redbridge Swimmers, which championed the repoening of a closed swimming pool in Ilford.

John Sharrock, chairman of community group Barkingside 21, said: “He was a well-respected and important member of the community and he would never shy away from getting involved, particularly in Redbridge Swimmers.

“He was the backbone of the group and he was well known throughout the area.”

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